Noting that high gas prices have forced drivers to find alternatives, including public transit, scooters and bicycles, Wall Street Journal writer David Patton wanted to know if "a hybrid-electric bicycle [can] really take the place of a car." After all, while bicycles provide great exercise, are extremely efficient and truly zero emissions, not everyone can or wants to pedal all the time, especially up steep hills. In theory, combining an electric motor with a bicycle should be an ideal mix of exercise and comfort. To find out how these hybrids perform, Patton test rode the "Urban XU450 made by OHM Cycles Ltd."
So what were the results?Well, "on the street, the hybrid powertrain works well on mild inclines and flat terrain," thanks in no small part to the electric motor which "puts out 250 watts of steady power and 450 watts of peak power, equivalent to the power that a human can put to the pedals." Unfortunately, those 450 watts weren't enough to be of much help on steep hills due to the bike's hefty (50 pound) weight and a lack of low gears.
Operating the Bike
Operating the bike is simple and fun. "A small digital controller on the handlebar lets riders choose from four levels of assistance, and a throttle provides a burst of power as long as the bike is already moving." Charging is done in three to four hours via a standard wall socket, and the battery has a claimed range of 70 miles per charge (that's assuming the battery is providing a partial assist for those 70 miles). Perhaps most interestingly, the bike features regenerative braking, just like the Prius, so that on downhills and when the brakes are applied the batteries are partially recharged.
At a cost of over $2100 USD, this particular electric bike costs as much as some scooters and mopeds, but operating costs are low, no special permits are required, and the rider still gets a workout. There are less expensive electric bikes out there (see the $350 electric commuter bike) that work fine as long as you don't need the range and higher end components (such as disc brakes) of the higher-end bikes.
The FInal Verdict
So are electric bikes a viable alternative to cars? In the end, Patton felt that "The OHM and other electric bikes are decent on short commutes in place of owning a second car to take to the train station. And any bike gives the extra benefit of a little exercise, too."
Via: ::Wall Street Journal
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